It’s Over: California Supreme Court Denies Review of Palos Verdes Estates Parkland Sale

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association — still convinced it has the absolute power to sell parkland — asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in and hear the case. On April 11, 2018, the Supreme Court declined. Thus, the 2015 ruling by the Superior Court and the January 30, 2018 Court of Appeal ruling are now the final word on whether the Palos Verdes Homes Association has the power to sell parkland.

 

Court of Appeal Finds Deed Restrictions Apply and are Enforceable in Palos Verdes Estates

Today the Court of Appeal issued its decision in the long simmering dispute over the City of Palos Verdes Estates’ sale of parkland. A copy of the decision can be read here. In sum, the Court of Appeal agreed that summary judgment should have been granted as to the Palos Verdes Homes Association (“Homes Association”) and the Luglianis. Their actions violated deed restrictions. The Court of Appeal, however, found that the relief fashioned in the judgment should be limited solely to the Panorama Parkland and not impact all 800 acres of parkland in the City. The Court of Appeal has ordered the trial court to issue a more narrow judgment against the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of Appeal found that neither my clients nor the City were entitled to summary judgment and instead the matter should proceed to trial against the City.

I am grateful that the Court of Appeal today confirmed the essence of what my clients have been saying since 2012: “that the deed restrictions mean what they say—Parcel A is intended to be parkland for the community.” (Opinion, p. 14). The parkland case is now over as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of the Appeal has affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis finding there was no question of fact to be tried regarding the Homes Association and the Luglianis’ actions. Per the Court of Appeal:  “We do not agree with the Association and the Luglianis that their actions were proper; the transfer of property from the Association to the Luglianis violated certain deed restrictions.” (Opinion, p. 3). The case will now be remanded to discuss the proper form of the judgment to be entered against the Homes Association and the Luglianis.

As for the City, the case will move forward to trial. The Court of Appeal ruled that neither the City nor my clients were entitled to receive summary judgment due to the existence of fact questions about the City’s intentions in conveying parkland. It remains to be seen what the City will do. Will the City continue to fight in court for the “right” for the City to liquidate the City’s 800 acres of parkland? I hope for the community’s sake that the City does not waste more legal fees to fight for a right that no residents want the City to assert. The City should take no solace in the fact that the summary judgment was reversed as to the City. The Court of Appeal observed: “While the City may have had the right to transfer Parcel A to the Association, it may not have had the right to do so if it knew that the Association was going to transfer Parcel A to the Luglianis.” (Opinion, p. 10). That is precisely the intent of the MOU – to get a public park into the hands of the Luglianis. I am confident that if this matter proceeds to trial against the City that the court will conclude that the City’s objective — to get the Panorama Parkland into the hands of the Luglianis will be found to be improper.

On a personal note, having represented the plaintiffs and respondents pro bono since 2013, I was gratified that the Court of Appeal concluded by finding that “the public did benefit from this litigation—namely through the protection of a public park.” (Opinion, p. 19).